Downton Abbey, Julian Fellowes’ beloved British upstairs-downstairs drama, is back with an all-new film that’s reigniting the cultural phenomenon. First premiering in the U.S. in 2011 on PBS, fans got to follow the drama, romance and scandals of the lives living at the Yorkshire country estate in the early 1900s over the course of six seasons.
Picking up just over a year after the events of the series finale, the newest chapter in the franchise -- which is now in theaters -- sees the many characters reuniting as the Yorkshire country estate prepares for a visit by King George V and Queen Mary.
Returning are all the major cast members, including Hugh Bonneville (Robert Crawley), Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith), Jim Carter (Mr. Carson), Raquel Cassidy (Miss Baxter), Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary), Kevin Doyle (Mr. Molesley), Michael Fox (Andy), Joanne Froggatt (Anna Bates), Matthew Goode (Henry Talbot), Harry Hadden-Paton (Bertie Hexham), Robert James-Collier (Thomas Barrow), Allen Leech (Tom Branson), Phyllis Logan (Mrs. Hughes), Elizabeth McGovern (Cora Crawley), Sophie McShera (Daisy), Lesley Nicol (Mrs. Patmore), Douglas Reith (Lord Merton), Maggie Smith (Violet Crawley) and Penelope Wilton (Isobel Merton). They are joined by a few new faces to the franchise, most notably Imelda Staunton and Tuppence Middleton.
Well before arriving in theaters, however, the question quickly popped up: Is there going to be a sequel? “To be perfectly honest, having thought the final episode of the sixth series was the end of the whole thing, which I completely did, I then thought the movie was definitely the end of the whole thing,” Fellowes tells ET, adding that when he wrote the movie, “I thought we were saying goodbye to Downton, and that was that.”
Since promoting the film, he’s realized the conversation has not been quite as clear cut as he previously thought. “So now we all have to put our thinking caps on again,” he admits.
Without spoiling what happens in the movie, it does provide a proper send-off to the franchise while also keeping the doors open thanks to some unexpected developments and the introduction of new characters that would make a welcome return as recurring supporting players. But ultimately, it comes down to having a good idea that inspires Fellowes to write something and the rest of the creative team and cast to get involved.
“It’s wonderful to have fans wanting it, [but] that can’t be the only reason,” says director Michael Engler, who helmed several episodes of the series in addition to the film. “Certainly it wouldn’t happen if there wasn't a success at the box office.”
“The fans have to get out and see it in the theaters,” producer Gareth Neame says, echoing Engler’s sentiment. “If people come out in big numbers and come see us in theaters then there’s no reason we couldn’t do another.”
While success at the box office is yet to be determined, the cast all sounds game to do it. At the premiere, Dockery, Fox, Leech and Logan all said they “absolutely would” do another, while teasing that Smith may be the holdout. “You just have to talk to the notorious Maggie,” Leech quips. Meanwhile, Fox went as far as suggesting that fans could finally see Andy and Daisy getting married. “Right around the next one, maybe we’ll see a wedding.”
“I think the appetite is there. It would be fun,” says Bonneville, adding that it really is up to audiences who are used to watching the franchise at home. “The question is, ‘Will they get out of their armchairs to the movie theater?’ Obviously, we hope so, but unless they do, there won’t be more.”
If nothing else, the franchise could even explore stories beyond the Yorkshire estate, following some of the new characters introduced in the film, like Mary, the Princess Royal. “We love the royal families and what's so interesting about it, is that they were there,” says Kate Phillips, who portrays the young royal, suggesting there’s still more to explore. “Perhaps a spinoff movie about Princess Mary.”